3 questions with our Challenge Champion

Professor Diana Stirbu, specialist in policy and governance and leader of the Social Integration & Regeneration Learning Network, discusses her work and the challenges London faces.

The Social Integration & Regeneration Learning Network brings together urban regeneration and social integration professionals, experts and academics with the aim to share and develop learning across London boroughs. Its primary focus is on providing space, time and skilled facilitation to local authority regeneration teams to come together and learn from one another. Social Integration, as defined by the Mayor of London's 'All of us' Strategy is about 'how we all live together. It is the extent to which people positively interact and connect with others from different backgrounds. It is shaped by the level of equality between people, the nature of our relationships, and our levels of community participation.'

What is one of the most important challenges your area faces?

London is home to a fantastic mix of people from different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds that share a built environment which raises both challenges and opportunities for social integration: from how different people and groups use the built environment to mix, the extent to which some groups are being prevented from the use of public space, how safe public space and shared built environment is for certain individuals etc.

Why did you want to get involved with the London Met Labs?

Following academic consultancy work on the GLA's Social Integration Design Lab, it became apparent that London Boroughs need more support in building the confidence of their regeneration and social integration officers in order to integrate the principles on Social Integration into their work. With my expertise from the Design Lab and my work on governance and policy, but also with a strong understanding of the pedagogy of learning communities, I thought I could make a valuable contribution. Moreover, the Londonmet's commitment to the social justice and inclusion agenda drove my interest in pursuing this project.

What makes you hopeful about the future of social wealth?

We are at the beginning of the project and we are encouraged by the level of interest we have seen from local authorities. The Covid-19 crisis has challenged a lot of what we have been doing and thinking in terms of how the public space would be re-developed and used. We have an enormous task ahead of us to re-shape the way we interact, form relationships, allow access and use of public space in a safe and inclusive way. We have seen an amazing degree of resilience from communities and the Network will help local authorities learn from one another.
Professor Diana Stirbu